[This post originally appeared on the now-defunct site Bustales back in 2007.]
He sat down on the bus seat right in front of me, while I was trying to read about how each of us individually creates meaning from the complex tapestry of the American city. I was sitting there with my nose in the book when all of a sudden this young kid (there was a whole, loud group of them in the back of the bus, where the cool kids sit) … this kid plunks down next to me on the seat.
The bus was not even close to full, so that was kind of weird. But, being a non-confrontational Minnesotan, I ignored my new neighbor.
Soon he left, but not long after that another, different kid sat down next to me. Was this some sort of practical joke, I asked myself, and I wondered ignoringly until the kid turned back to her friends and shouted, “It’s Real!” A sea of giggles bubbled up from the audience.
That got me thinking, and noticing. What’s real? What’s so funny?
Now, granted, this was no punk making a point. This was a typical working-class, mesh-hat octogenerian, sitting and riding the bus because he was too old or too poor to drive. He was your everyday bus companion — except that he had a mousetrap on his ear.
I took some invasive pictures, and the kids kept giggling, but either the old man didn’t notice, or he was too proud to acknowledge us. And, as I sat there in wonder, I just had to start laughing. I busted a gut — it was so utterly foreign, so abnormal, so crazy.
A while later a lady who apparently was acquainted with the guy boarded the bus, saw him, and sat down next to him. “Art. How’ve you been?”
Art mumbled something.
“Say, Art. You’ve got a mousetrap on your ear,” the lady stated, her jaw hitting the dirty bus floor. “You know you’ve got a mousetrap on your ear?”
Again, Art mumbled… something about the mousetrap. I couldn’t make it out. The only thing I heard was the word “yesterday.”
“You’re crazy,” the lady said, and she quickly moved to another seat.
Maybe he was crazy. Though, apart from the mousetrap, he didn’t seem particularly loony to me. But this guy has been making me laugh for going on eight
hours years now. It’s made me think about all the ways in which the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum.
[It's a true story. In the comments on the original now-gone post, there were a few stories from people who knew this guy, including a story about how a co-worker once saw him jump onto a machine at work and "piss on it" after another co-worker had jokingly said to do so, and how in the kitchen in his house there were forks hanging from the ceiling, tied with fishing line for some reason.]